Happy Thanksgiving

Posted November 25, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Special Days

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Surround yourself with family and friends and embrace their love, laughter, and joy. Most of all, be thankful for even the smallest blessings in your life.

Picture Book Review: I AM SMOKE

Posted November 18, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Book Review

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I Am Smoke written by Henry Herz and illustrated by Mercè López, Tilbury House Publishers, 2021

I Am Smoke is a unique book told through the point of view of Smoke. Although Smoke can be dangerous, the author chooses to give Smoke an endearing personality by weaving scientific facts into the lyrical text and praising Smoke’s good qualities. Unlike humans, Smoke doesn’t have hands, a mouth, or a nose. Even though Smoke is missing these features, it can do many of the things humans can do. It encourages seeds to grow with its warmth. It drives pests out of enclosed places, speaks through smoke signals, gives off good-smelling scents, soothes bees, flavors and preserves foods, is used as a medicine, and eventually is recycled back to the earth. Mercè López’s multimedia artwork that includes a muted watercolor mixture of grays, blacks, earth tones, and flecks of brightness is breathtaking. The back matter provides more information that adds to the uniqueness of the story. The lyrical text of the author and the artistic talents of the illustrator result in a beautiful book that will fascinate readers of all ages. I highly recommend this book.  

A Salute to Our Veterans

Posted November 11, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Special Days

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Today we honor those men and women, past and present, who served in the United States Armed Forces.

Celebrate their patriotism today and every day!

My Dad

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a First Lieutenant, navigating B-29 bombers, and was a member of the 505th Bombardment Group based on Tinian Island.

Fly your flag today to show your appreciation!

Halloween Trick? Or Treat?

Posted November 4, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

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A Treat

As you know, last weekend was Halloween. Every year my daughter and her growing family come to visit us to celebrate Halloween. We bake pumpkin cookies. We read Halloween books. We have a Halloween Scavenger Hunt. We dress up and go trick-or-treating. And we finish the day off with a dinner of mummy hot dogs and mac and cheese. It’s a treat for everyone!

A Trick

This year was a bit different. It began the Tuesday evening before Halloween when a nor’easter hit New England. We had winds and rain where we live, but the nor’easter slammed the South Shore of Massachusetts where my daughter and family live. Trees fell, electrical lines were down, and nearly half a million people lost power. School was called off and, being thoughtful parents, we invited my daughter and family to come to our house and stay warm until their power returned. For the next five nights, we had six extra people in our house. Oh my, what a trick the storm and electrical company played on all of us!

We endured. Our family made the best of the circumstances. Take a look!

Halloween Games
Pumpkin Cookie Treats on a disappearing plate!

Jack O’ Lanterns

Joan Jett, Madonna, Britney Spears, The Blues Brothers, and Elvis entertained us!

(Picture provided by Willie Nelson and his groupie.)

And after a few wild and crazy days, there were always books to read before bedtime.

It was a Halloween worth remembering! I hope yours was, too!

Pumpkins and Bats and Ghosts…Oh, My!

Posted October 28, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Halloween

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It’s that time of year when creepy creatures come out to haunt.

What does this scene make you think of? Tap into your inner child and see if you can come up with a “spooktacular” tale.

Share if you dare!!

Some of My Favorite Halloween Board Books

Posted October 21, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Holiday Books

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Below are some spooky Halloween board books for your little ghosts and goblins to enjoy.

Count to five forwards and backwards in these books filled with Halloween treats.

Five Little Pumpkins written by Rosie Greening and illustrated by Lara Ede, Make Believe Ideas, 2016

Five Little Pumpkins illustrated by Ben Mantle, Tiger Tales, 2010

Five Spooky Pumpkins written by Danielle McLean and illustrated by Roisin Hahessy, Tiger Tales, 2019

Have fun with this rhyming text while finding geometric shapes.

Pumpkin Shapes written and illustrated by Charles Reasoner, Picture Window Books, 2015

Join Duck and Goose as they search for a pumpkin.

Duck & Goose, Find a Pumpkin written and illustrated by Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade, 2009

These two boo books will keep spines tingling as readers find surprises on each page!

Boo (Peek-a-Flap) written by Rosa Von Feder and illustrated by Gaby Zermeño, Cottage Door Press, 2017

Boo! written by Jonathan Litton and illustrated by Fhiona Galloway, Tiger Tales, 2015

Everybody loves a party – especially a pumpkin party with all your friends!

Pumpkin Party! written by Maudie Powell-Tuck and illustrated by Gill Guile, Tiger Tales, 2015

Don’t forget a Halloween witch with push, pull, and slide fun.

My Magical Witch written and illustrated by Yujin Shin, Abrams Appleseed, 2021

Look at this sweet little pumpkin. Not all Halloween books have to be spooky.

You’re My Little Pumpkin Pie written and illustrated by Natalie Marshall, Silver Dolphin Books, 2018

Here’s a classic Halloween book about friendship written in high-flying rhyme!

Room on a Broom written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Dial Books, 2012

And one last spooky lift-the-flap ghost book with lots of ghoulish surprises.

Ghost in the House written by Ammi-Joan Paquette and illustrated by Adam Record, Candlewick, 2015

Be sure to share these devilishly fun Halloween books with your youngsters!

A Peek at One of My Favorite Halloween Books

Posted October 14, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Holiday Books

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Halloween is slowly creeping into my house. Everywhere I look, witches, ghosts, spiders, skeletons, and pumpkins are finding haunted places to reside. I found the little pumpkin below peeking into one of my favorite Halloween books. Now how did that get there?

Trick or Eeek! is is an excellent choice for a Halloween read. It’s filled with “spine-tickling,” spooky riddles. Delightful illustrations combined with lift-the-flap riddle answers will keep readers turning the pages and howling with laughter.

Trick or Eeek! written by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg and illustrated by R.W. Alley, Harper Festival, 1996

Here’s a riddle of my own.

What did the ghost say to Mr. Rogers on Halloween?

It’s a boo-tiful day in the neighborhood!

Do you have a riddle to share?

Tune in next week for more of my favorite Halloween books.

My Favorite September Picture Book Choices

Posted October 7, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Book Review, Picture Books

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Below are some of the books I read during the month of September that piqued my interest.

Beatrice Was a Tree written and illustrated by Joyce Hesselberth, Greenwillow Books, 2021

Not wanting to go to bed, Beatrice stays outside. She imagines herself to be a tree that changes during the four seasons. She stretches her branches, feels the warmth of the sun, provides homes for animals, sheds her leaves, and, after a snowy winter, she blossoms once again. The magic of imagination is broken when Mom calls, “Beatrice, Bed! Now!” This book is filled with whimsical illustrations and lyrical text that will delight readers who appreciate nature. 

Mel Fell written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor, Balzer + Bray, 2021

I love this book because of its unique format. It’s not your usual book as you follow Mel who wants to learn to fly. But before she flies…”Mel fell.” Readers follow Mel as she falls down, down, down past the critters in the tree who try to help her. Mel and the book take a turn (literally) as she plunges into the water. Make sure you follow the directions on how to turn the book to find out if Mel ever learns to fly. This book is sure to entertain readers!

Are You a Cheeseburger? written and illustrated by Monica Arnaldo, Katherine Tegen Books, 2021

Grub, a raccoon, and Seed, a seed, meet in a garbage can. Grub is convinced if Seed grows, cheeseburgers will blossom. Grub plants Seed and the two spend every night talking to each other and describing what is going on above ground and below ground. When Seed finally sprouts, they celebrate. Grub makes sure to water Seed every day as he longs for the promise of delicious cheeseburgers that will soon appear. But when Seed blossoms as a flower – not a cheeseburger plant – Grub is quiet. What is he thinking? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I love the uniqueness of this delicious book and the unusual friendship that evolves.

Mucky Truck written by Ammi-Joan Paquette and illustrated by Elisa Ferro, Henry Holt and Co., 2021

Kids will love this rollicking story about a little truck, a crane, a digger, and a forklift that get stuck in the muck until the firetruck comes to get them out. Onomatopoeia and rhymes will keep kids engaged along with an unexpected messy ending.

The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round written by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and illustrated by Lorian Tu, Orchard Books, 2021

This is a delightful story of a Chinese family coming together to prepare for their evening dinner. Readers will have fun joining in with the rhythmic text that goes along with the familiar song, “The Wheels on the Bus.” 

The Longest Storm written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, mineditionUS, 2021

Stuck in their house with no place to go, a single father and his children slowly learn how to reconnect with one another to become a supportive family unit once again. A definite must-read!

Norman Didn’t Do it! written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins, Disney-Hyperion, 2021

A humorous picture book about learning to share your best friend with others and accepting new friends.

Bright Star written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Neal Porter Books, 2021

A beautifully illustrated book about love, honor, and respect.

If any of these books are of interest to you and your family, make sure to check them out and enjoy!

Little Free Libraries

Posted September 30, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Libraries

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I love going to the library. It’s a place of comfort. A place where anything can happen. All you have to do is reach for a book, open it, and begin reading. Magic happens! When I was young, I spent many happy hours at our town library, searching for the just-right book. A library is a place where you can find hidden treasures.

I love books – especially children’s books. (After all, I’m a former elementary school teacher and school librarian, and I’m a children’s author.) Fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle-grade and young adult books are my books of choice. I not only read books but I collect them. When books started piling up on the floor of my office, I realized I had too many. There is no way I would ever want to get rid of all of them. My granddaughters would never forgive me. But there are some I’m willing to give up.

Enter The Little Free Library. I first started seeing these cute little structures that house books around Madison, WI. I’ve been fascinated by them ever since. They are popping up in neighborhoods across the country. TAKE A BOOK. LEAVE A BOOK. It’s also a perfect way to share books and bring joy to others.

Taking photos of these Little Free Libraries has become a hobby of mine. Whenever or wherever I see one, I snap a photo. Below are some of my favorites.

Maybe it’s time to invest in a Little Free Library of my own.

Here is a wonderful book that tells the story of Todd Bol and his movement to promote books and literacy through Little Free Libraries.

Little Libraries, Big Heroes written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by John Parra, Clarion Books, 2019

A Perfect Pick!

Posted September 23, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Laughter, Life

Tags: ,

On Tuesday, my husband and I picked a peck of apple-icious apples!

Pick a Peck

Each picked apple conjured up tasty treats – apple sauce, apple crunch, apple pie, apple cake, apple donuts, apple cider, apple butter…

It was a beautiful day at Sunnycrest Apple Farm and Farmer’s Market.

Apples, and Mums, and Pumpkins, – Oh, my!

There was no need to mask up. We had wide-open spaces to roam up and down rows of apple trees.

Walkin’ Down the Apple Highway

There were no crowds, but the branches were jam-packed with apples.

Apples Galore

After picking our pick of apples, we splurged and bought ourselves a special treat.

Yum!

It was a great day to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Apple anyone?

Remember. An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Pick one of these apple books.

How to Grow an Apple written by Beth Charles and illustrated by Katie Rewse, Albert Whitman & Company, 2020

Let’s Go Apple Picking written by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Nila Aye, Golden Books, 2020.

Applesauce Day written by Lisa J. Amstutz and illustrated by Talitha Shipman, Albert Whitman & Company, 2017

Apple Picking Day! written by Candice Ransom and illustrated by Erika Meza, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016


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